Chef Duskie Estes' Culinary Q&A

We checked in with Chef Estes, one of 10 rival chefs competing on The Next Iron Chef: Redemption, to find out her culinary icon, favorite cookbook, go-to potluck dish and more.

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Who is your culinary icon?
A:
Alice Waters. She put faces to the ingredients. We are guided by knowing the face that feeds you and being responsible for the path of our dollar.

What's your favorite cookbook written by someone other than yourself? What makes it so great?
A:
The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg is the book I go back to the most. It is not really a cookbook, but a book of what goes with what. It kicks-starts my ideas when my farmers show up with an ingredient.

What's your Achilles heel ingredient, one that you hate to work with or encounter in someone else's dish?
A:
This is not an ingredient really but a way of dealing with ingredients. I am not into fusion, which I call confusion or technique over ingredient. I try to shepherd the ingredient’s own awesomeness from the farm to the fork rather than doing things like foams or sous vide. Like using a knife and a board, not extra things or toys.

What's the first dish you learned to make really well?
A:
Pasta Carbonara.

What's your signature party or potluck dish to make at home for friends?
A:
In the summer, we love a BLT with our bacon and some tabasco aioli and some just-picked tomatoes. I also make a mean guacamole with a ton of lime.

What music do you like to listen to when you cook?
A:
Cake and Flaming Lips.

What's your favorite "food city" to visit and what do you like to eat there?
A:
Seattle or London. Love all the Asian food in Seattle and a Salumi and a Bahn Mi at Baguette Box. My lifetime best meal was at Fergus Henderson's in London, and I adore the Indian food there.

If you had not become a chef, which profession would you have chosen?
A:
My grandfather was a federal judge. I would have liked to have been a judge if I didn't have to be a lawyer first. Can I be a judge on The Next Iron Chef? I'd like to have been Julia Child with a show on public television. Or being a stay-at-home mom would have been awesome, too. I love my time with my girls.

Chef and owner of ZAZU Restaurant + Farm, Duskie Estes competed on The Next Iron Chef Season 3 and won the Road to Redemption Web series to join the cast of The Next Iron Chef: Redemption.